2003 Invasion of Iraq

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This article covers invasion specifics. For general information see: Iraq War, Post-invasion Iraq.

The 2003 Invasion of Iraq began on March 20 comprising United States and United Kingdom forces (98%), and several other nations. The 2003 Iraq invasion marked the beginning of the Iraq War. Baghdad fell on April 9th, 2003. On May 1, 2003 U.S. president George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations terminating the Ba'ath Party's rule and removing Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from office. Coalition forces ultimately captured Saddam Hussein on December 14, 2003. A transitional period began thereafter.

2003 Invasion of Iraq

Map of Iraq
02:30 UTC March 20, 2003–April 15, 2003
Iraq, Southwest Asia

A decade of genocidal blockade / sanctions by the U.N. with 1,000,000 deaths including 500,000 children and the Iraq disarmament crisis

Claimed official objectives US & UK government
  • Control of alleged weapons of mass destruction
  • Elimination of dictatorship of Saddam Hussein
  • Ceasing alleged support of terrorist activities by Iraqi government
Iraqi citizen critics assertions of objectives
  • Control of iraqi oil
  • Reversion of iraqi oil exports to $US from Euros
  • Alternative Middle East military base location
  • Removal of Israel opponent
  • Implementation of psychotic neoconservative fantasy
  • 100,000 dead
  • 3,000 deaths by violent means monthly
  • Increased child malnutrition


Invasion legitimacy

Many have argued that the legitimacy of the invasion could be disputed under international law. Prior to invasion, the U.S. and U.K. attempted unsuccessfully to secure a U.N. resolution authorizing force on the grounds that Iraq was in violation of various previous resolutions. The U.S. structured its report to the U.N. Security Council around intelligence from the CIA and MI5 stating that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Legal justification rested upon Iraq's violation of several U.N. Resolutions, most recently UN Security Council Resolution 1441. [1] U.S. president George W. Bush claimed Iraq's WMDs posed a significant threat to the United States and its allies. [2][3] The Iraqi government denied the existence of any such facilities or capabilities and called the reports lies and fabrications.[4] U.N. inspection teams capable of continuing the search were ordered out because war appeared imminent. After the war, the U.S. Iraq Survey Group Final Report concluded in its September 30, 2004 report that, "ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but the available evidence from its investigation—including detainee interviews and document exploitation—leaves open the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq although not of a militarily significant capability." The U.S. officially abandoned its search for WMDs in Iraq on January 12, 2005.

To this date, WMDs have not been found in Iraq, see Duelfer Report.[5][6][7]

Political and diplomatic aspects

In his March 17, 2003 address to the nation, U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his two sons Uday and Qusay leave Iraq, giving them a 48-hour deadline [8]. This demand was reportedly rejected [9]; however, in 2005, United Arab Emirates officials stated that Saddam had, in fact, accepted their offer of exile. [10]

Since the invasion began without the explicit approval of the United Nations Security Council, some legal authorities regard it as a violation of the U.N. Charter. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in September 2004, "From our point of view and the U.N. charter point of view, it was illegal." [11] There have been no formal charges under international law.

Military aspects

United States military operations were conducted first under the codename Operation Iraqi Liberation [12], quoted by Ari Fleischer on March 24, 2003, but was soon renamed Operation Iraqi Freedom [13], as quoted by George W. Bush on April 3, 2003. It was rumored that the name change was to avoid the first codename's acronym, O.I.L. [14]. The United Kingdom military operation was named Operation Telic, and Australia's as Operation Falconer. Approximately 100,000 United States troops and 45,000 British, and smaller forces from other nations, collectively called the "Coalition of the Willing," entered Iraq primarily through a staging area in Kuwait. Plans for opening a second front in the north were abandoned when Turkey officially refused the use of its territory for such purposes. Forces also supported Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000.

The number of Iraqi military personnel prior to the war was uncertain, but was believed to poorly-equipped [15][16][17]. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the armed forces to number 389,000 (army 350,000, navy 2,000, air force 20,000 and air defence 17,000), the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam 44,000, and reserves 650,000 [18]. Other estimates number the army and Republican Guard between 280,000 to 350,000 and 50,000 to 80,000, respectively [19], and the paramilitary between 20,000 and 40,000 [20]. There were an estimated thirteen infantry divisions, ten mechanized and armored divisions, as well as some special forces units. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy played a negligible role in the conflict.


Since the end of the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq's relations with the UN, the US, and the UK remained poor. In the absence of a Security Council consensus that Iraq had fully complied with the terms of the Persian Gulf War ceasefire, both the UN and the US enforced numerous economic sanctions against Iraq throughout the Clinton administration, and patrolled Iraqi airspace to enforce Iraqi no-fly zones. The United States Congress also passed the "Iraq Liberation Act" in October 1998, which provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" in order to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq." This contrasted with the terms set out in U.N. Resolution 687 [21], all of which related to weapons and weapons programs, not to what regime was in place. Weapons inspectors had also been used to gather intelligence on Iraq's WMD program, information that was then used in targeting decisions during Operation Desert Fox [22], [23]. At the same time Tony Blair's Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, could not guarantee that an invasion in the circumstances would not be challenged on legal grounds [24].

The United States Republican Party's campaign platform in the U.S. presidential election, 2000 called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act and removal of Saddam Hussein with a focus on rebuilding a coalition, tougher sanctions, reinstating inspections, and support for the pro-democracy, opposition exile group, Iraqi National Congress then headed by Ahmed Chalabi. [25]

In September 2000, in the Rebuilding America's Defenses (pg. 17) report, Project for the New American Century, a right-wing think tank, suggested that the United States shift to more ground-based air forces to help contain the forces of Saddam Hussein so that "the demand for carrier presence in the region can be relaxed." Upon the election of George W. Bush as president, many advocates of such a policy (including some of those who wrote the 2000 report) were included in the new administration's foreign policy circle. According to former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, as widely reported by the mainstream press, an attack was planned since the inauguration, and the first security council meeting discussed plans on invasion of the country. O'Neill later clarified that these discussions were part of a continuation of foreign policy first put into place by the Clinton Administration. [26]

Notes from aides who were with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center one year later, on the day of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, reflect that he wanted, "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only [Osama bin Laden]." The notes also quote him as saying, "Go massive," and "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."[27] Shortly thereafter, the George W. Bush administration announced a War on Terrorism, accompanied by the doctrine of 'preemptive' military action dubbed the Bush doctrine. A preemptive war requires that the declared purpose be to respond to an imminent threat of war by the other power, whereas wars instituted against a hypothetical future threat are more properly called preventive war and generally considered a war of aggression. From the 90s, US officials have constantly voiced concerns about ties between the government of Saddam Hussein and some particular terrorist activities, notably in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which have been confirmed by subsequent reports; on the other hand, the September 11 commission in June, 2004 released a staff report that said it found 'no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.'"[28]

In 2002 the Iraq disarmament crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation. In October 2002, with the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq" (Adopted 296-133 by the House of Representatives and 77-23 by the Senate), the United States Congress granted President Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq. The Joint Resolution was worded so as to encourage, but not require, UN Security Council approval for military action, although as a matter of international law the US required explicit Security Council approval for an invasion unless an attack by Iraq had been imminent — the US administration argued that there was an "urgent," "growing," and "immediate" threat. [29] The joint resolution allowed the President of the United States to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."

In November 2002, United Nations actions regarding Iraq culminated in the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and the resumption of weapons inspections. However, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later stated that the subsequent invasion was a violation of the UN Charter. Force was not authorized by resolution 1441 itself, as the language of the resolution mentioned "serious consequences," which is generally not understood by Security Council members to include the use of force to overthrow the government; however the threat of force, as cultivated by the Bush administration, was prominent at the time of the vote. Both the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, and the UK ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, in promoting Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002, had given assurances that it provided no "automaticity," no "hidden triggers," no step to invasion without consultation of the Security Council [30]. Such consultation was forestalled by the US and UK's abandonment of the Security Council procedure and their invasion of Iraq. Richard Perle, a senior member of the administration's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, argued in November 2003, that the invasion was against international law, but still justified [31], [32]. There is still much disagreement among international lawyers on whether prior resolutions, relating to the 1991 war and later inspections, permitted the invasion.

The United States also began preparations for an invasion of Iraq, with a host of diplomatic, public relations, and military preparations.


See The UN Security Council and the Iraq war and Public relations preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq for more details

Prior to George W. Bush being elected president, several members of the Bush team, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz wrote urging an invasion of Iraq as part of a larger middle east policy. One document, entitled "Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000, stating 'The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'

In the wake of the September 11 attacks and the relative success of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush administration felt that it had sufficient military justification and public support in the United States for further operations against perceived threats in the Middle East. The relations between some coalition members and Iraq had never improved since 1991, and the nations remained in a state of low-level conflict marked by American and British air-strikes, sanctions, and threats against Iraq. Iraqi radar had also locked onto and anti-aircraft guns and missiles were fired upon coalition airplanes enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones, which had been implemented after the Gulf War in 1991.

Throughout 2002, the U.S. administration made it clear that removing Saddam Hussein from power was a major goal, although it offered to accept major changes in Iraqi military and foreign policy in lieu of this. Specifically, the stated justification for the invasion included Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction, links with terrorist organizations and human rights violations in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein government, issues that are detailed below.

To that end, the stated goals of the invasion, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were:

  • Self-defense
    • find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, weapons programs, and terrorists
    • collect intelligence on networks of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists
  • Humanitarian
    • end sanctions and to deliver humanitarian support (According to Madeline Albright, half a million Iraqi children had died because of sanctions.)
  • United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution
  • Regime Change
    • end the Saddam Hussein government
    • help Iraq's transition to democratic self-rule
  • Other
    • secure Iraq's oil fields and other resources

Many staff and supporters within the Bush administration had other, more ambitious goals for the war as well. Many claimed that the war could act as a catalyst for democracy and peace in the Middle East, and that once Iraq became democratic and prosperous other nations would quickly follow suit due to this demonstration effect, and thus the social environment that allowed terrorism to flourish would be eliminated. However, for diplomatic, bureaucratic reasons these goals were played down in favor of justifications that Iraq represented a specific threat to the United States and to international law. Little evidence was presented actually linking the government of Iraq to al-Qaeda (see below).

Opponents of the Iraq war disagreed with many of the arguments presented by the administration, attacking them variously as being untrue, inadequate to justify a preemptive war, or likely to have results different from the administration's intentions. Further, they asserted various alternate reasons for the invasion. Different groups asserted that the war was fought primarily for:

  • Energy economics
    • to gain control over Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market (since 2000, Iraq had used the Euro as its oil export currency)
    • to ensure the US had military control over the region's hydrocarbon reserves as a lever to control other countries that depend on it
    • to assure that the revenue from Iraqi oil would go primarily to American interests
    • to lower the price of oil for American consumers
  • Defense and construction special interests
    • to channel money to defense and construction interests
  • Public perception
    • to maintain the wartime popularity that the President enjoyed due to his response to the 11 September attacks, and thus distract attention from other domestic political issues on which he was politically vulnerable (in contrast to his father whose wartime popularity quickly faded when the electorate began to focus on the economy)
  • Ideological, emotional reasons
    • in pursuance of the PNAC's stated strategic goal of "unquestionable [American] geopolitical preeminence"
    • a chance for George W. Bush to get revenge against Saddam Hussein for allegedly attempting to have his father, President George H. W. Bush, assassinated during a visit to Kuwait in 1993.
    • to satisfy and create closure for President George H.W. Bush, Cheney, and other members of the first Bush administration who had been humiliated by the end of the first Gulf War and wanted an opportunity to finally "get" Saddam, after previously failing to do so.

Weapons of mass destruction

See Iraq disarmament crisis for more details.

Computer-generated image of an alleged mobile production facility for biological weapons, presented by Colin Powell at the UN Security Council.  Absence of more substantial proof undermined the credibility of the speech on the international scene.  Russian experts questioned the likelihood of such mobile facilities, which are extremely dangerous and difficult to manage.
Computer-generated image of an alleged mobile production facility for biological weapons, presented by Colin Powell at the UN Security Council. Absence of more substantial proof undermined the credibility of the speech on the international scene. Russian experts questioned the likelihood of such mobile facilities, which are extremely dangerous and difficult to manage.

Ultimately, the Iraq war was presented as largely being a case of removing banned weapons from Iraq. Administration officials, especially with the United States Department of State led by Colin Powell were eager to make the case for war as universally acceptable to as many nations as possible. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense stated in an interview on 28 May 2003 in Vanity Fair that 'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction'. [33]

Before the attack, the head UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, clearly stated that his teams had been unable to find any evidence of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons in Iraq. However, the discovery of illegal missiles discovered by United Nations weapons inspectors which were ultimately deemed in violation of United Nations Resolution 687 (1991), called the Al-Samoud IIs, raised serious questions: these rockets could possibly narrowly pass the allowed range of 150 km (93 miles), though without carrying any load. Ultimately though, they were determined to be in violation of the terms to which Saddam Hussein agreed in order to cease the hostilities of the Persian Gulf War and thus, deemed prohibited and ordered destroyed by the United Nations Security Council. Retrospectively, some time after the attack, Hans Blix expressed doubts that the nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons had existed [34], [35], but never speculated whether the discovery of the illegal Al-Samoud IIs could be a trigger for justifying war or not. Former top American weapons inspector to Iraq, Scott Ritter, a longtime advocate of more thorough weapons inspections previously and considered an anti-Iraq hardliner, said that he was now absolutely convinced Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction [36] which contradicts earlier 1998 statements by Scott Ritter regarding this issue.

On August 26, 1998, approximately two months prior to United Nations inspectors' ejection from Iraq, Scott Ritter resigned from his position rather than participate in what he called the "illusion of arms control." In his resignation letter to Ambassador Butler, [37] Ritter wrote: "The Special Commission was created for the purpose of disarming Iraq. As part of the Special Commission team, I have worked to achieve a simple end: the removal, destruction or rendering harmless of Iraq's proscribed weapons. The sad truth is that Iraq today is not disarmed ... UNSCOM has good reason to believe that there are significant numbers of proscribed weapons and related components and the means to manufacture such weapons unaccounted for in Iraq today ... Iraq has lied to the Special Commission and the world since day one concerning the true scope and nature of its proscribed programs and weapons systems. This lie has been perpetuated over the years through systematic acts of concealment. It was for the purpose of uncovering Iraq's mechanism of concealment, and in doing so gaining access to hidden weapons components and weapons programs, that you created a dedicated capability to investigate Iraq's concealment activities, which I have had the privilege to head."

Furthermore, on September 7, 1998, approximately one month prior to United Nations weapons inspectors' ejection from Iraq, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, [38] Scott Ritter was asked by John McCain (R, AZ) whether UNSCOM had intelligence suggesting that Iraq had assembled the components for three nuclear weapons and all that it lacked was the fissile material. Ritter replied: "The Special Commission has intelligence information, which suggests that components necessary for three nuclear weapons exists, lacking the fissile material. Yes, sir." As Paul Leventhal, head of the Nuclear Control Institute remarked in response to Ritter's statement,[39] "Iraq could be only days or weeks away from having nuclear weapons if it acquires the needed plutonium or bomb-grade uranium on the black market or by other means." Ritter also said that, absent UNSCOM, Iraq could reconstruct its chemical and biological weapons programs in six months, as well as its missile program. He said that Iraq had a plan for achieving a missile breakout within six months of receiving the signal from Saddam Hussein.

It is unclear what Scott Ritter believes happened to that capability he said Saddam Hussein had in 1998 as compared to that capability he believes Saddam Hussein had after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, considering United Nations weapons inspectors were absent from Iraq from 1998 to 2002.

President Bush and members of his cabinet and staff relied heavily on intelligence reports, of which the C.I.A.'s 2002 report [40] on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was one of the more prominent.

No weapons of mass destruction were found by the Iraq Survey Group, headed by inspector David Kay. Kay, who resigned as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, said U.S. intelligence services owed President Bush an explanation for having concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. [41] However, the team claims to have found evidence of low-level WMD programs — a claim hotly disputed by many, with the Biosecurity Journal referring to the Biological Warfare (BW) claims as a "worst case analysis" [42].

On 29 May 2003, President Bush said during an interview with Polish television network TVP that "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories." [43]

The Iraq Survey Group under Bush-appointed inspector David Kay reported in the 'Interim Progress Report' on 2003 October 3 the following key points: "We have not yet found stocks of weapons," difficulty in explaining why, clandestine laboratories suitable for "preserving BW expertise" which contained equipment subject to UN monitoring, a prison laboratory complex which Kay describes as "possibly used in human testing of BW agents," strains of bacteria kept in one scientist's home (including a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B), twelve-year-old documents and small parts concerning uranium enrichment found in a scientist's home [44], partially declared UAVs, capability to produce a type of fuel useful for Scud missiles, a scientist who had drawn plans for how to make longer-range missiles [45], and attempts to acquire missile technology from North Korea, and destroyed documents of unknown significance. [46]. The report categorized most biological agents as "BW-applicable" or "BW-capable"; the report mentions nothing that was being used in such a context. Chemical weapons are referred to in a similar fashion. The nuclear program, according to the report, had not done any work since 1991, but had attempted to retain scientists and documentation from it in case sanctions were ever dropped.

However, Kay himself has since stated (concerning Iraqi WMDs): "We were almost all wrong - and I certainly include myself here." He has stated that many intelligence analysts have come to him "in apology that the world we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed" [47]. He has also directly contradicted since then much of the October report. Before Kay made these revelations, many of the scientists on his staff had already come out with similar statements. [48].

Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his oral report the following: "Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat. Now that you know reality on the ground as opposed to what you estimated before, you may reach a different conclusion — although I must say I actually think what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war." [49]

Dr. Kay's team concluded that Iraq had the production capacity and know-how to produce a great deal more chemical and biological weaponry when international economic sanctions were lifted, a policy change which was actively being sought by France, Germany and Russia. Kay also believes that a large but undetermined amount of the former Iraqi government's WMD program had been moved to Syria shortly before the 2003 invasion. [50] However, in April 2005, the Iraq Survey Group's final report "found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD," and ruled out any government-sanctioned movement of banned weapons to Syria. [51]

The current consensus view of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction seems similar to that portrayed by Hussein Kamel in 1995 and that of Imad Khadduri [52]: that Iraq had almost completely destroyed its programs, but sought to retain as much knowledge and information as it could so that, should sanctions ever end, the programs could start over quickly.

As of May 2005, small quantities of chemically degraded mustard gas had been found in old munitions. However, these are generally regarded as left-overs from the pre-sanction era before the 1991 Gulf War. The general consensus is that the intelligence community, including the CIA and other foreign services, failed to provide an accurate picture of the WMD program in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government and the Bush administration have not yet taken official stances on the intelligence failures, but Congressional investigations, primarily under Democratic leadership, were either underway or forming in the spring of 2005.

The United Nations announced a report on March 2, 2004 from the weapons inspection teams stating that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction of any significance after 1994. [53]

In a June 2004 interview with Time Magazine, former president Bill Clinton said, "I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over." He added that he supported the invasion because "there was a lot of stuff unaccounted for." [54]

On August 2, 2004 President Bush stated "Knowing what I know today we still would have gone on into Iraq. He had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction. He had terrorists ties … the decision I made is the right decision. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power."[55]

On October 6, 2004 Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, appearing before the United States Senate Armed Services Committee announced that the group found no evidence that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had produced any weapons of mass destruction since 1991, when UN sanctions were imposed and furthermore, Iraq had been incapable of doing so. The report noted that Saddam had made it his primary goal to have sanctions lifted by whatever means necessary and that whether or not Saddam Hussein was, indeed, "contained" was questionable considering dozens of instances in which prohibited material had entered Iraq through several nefarious means such as front companies and other questionable means. From the report: "[Saddam] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted."[56]

The report concluded in its Key Findings that: "The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent, but firm, verbal comments and directions to them." [57] (PDF)

It also noted that "Iran was the pre-eminent motivator of [Iraq's WMD revival] policy. All senior level Iraqi officials considered Iran to be Iraq’s principal enemy in the region. The wish to balance Israel and acquire status and influence in the Arab world were also considerations, but secondary."

In March of 2005 there was an addition to Duelfer's Report titled Addendums to the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD [58] In it Charles Duelfer made the statement that "Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined. There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to warrant further investigation. ... ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war. It should be noted that no information from debriefing of Iraqis in custody supports this possibility. ... Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials." [59]

On January 12, 2005, US military forces, having located no weapons of mass destruction, formally abandoned the search.

On June 8, 2005, retired 4-star general and former Secretary of State in the Bush administration Colin Powell, appeared on The Daily Show and stated regarding Weapons of Mass Destructions in Iraq: "Now where we got the intelligence wrong, dead wrong, is that we thought he also had existing stockpiles, and now we know that those are not there." [60] [61]

On August 21, 2005, CNN aired a special presentation titled, 'Dead Wrong:' Inside an Intelligence Meltdown[62]. The presentation featured clips of pre-war speeches, interviews with important people involved in this matter and received high ratings[63][64][65]. Former head of the Iraq Survey Group David Kay was also interviewed and stated: "We can't afford to be wrong a second time. How many people in the world are going to believe us when we say it's a "slam dunk," to use George Tenet's terms? Iran has nuclear weapons. The answer is going to be, you said that before."[66]


However effective, UN sanctions fostered a growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. International popular opinion seemed to shift in favour of lifting the sanctions and finding diplomatic alternatives such as targeted sanctions that might be as effective, but which would not inadvertently affect the Iraqi populace. Temporary solutions, such as the Oil for Food program, an easing of the sanctions on a controlled basis, had limited success in the face of corruption in the Iraqi government and UN officials involved in the program [67]. Essentially, harsh sanctions originally intended to be temporary could not be kept in place indefinitely. In addition, Saddam's persistent efforts to sway certain UN Security Council members with money diverted from the Oil for Food program meant that sanctions may have reached the limit of their usefulness.[68][69]

Human Rights

Another key rationale for the war was ending Saddam Hussein's nearly 40-year track record of murder, torture, and other major human rights abuses (see Human rights in Saddam's Iraq). Some critics called this justification self-serving, since the US government did not do much to prevent or to punish those crimes while they were happening. Although the use of chemical weapons against Kurds in 1983 was known by US intelligence, Donald Rumsfeld, at the time presidential envoy of Ronald Reagan, nevertheless spoke of his "close relationship" with Saddam Hussein and even visited him. After the Persian Gulf War the US government encouraged rebellions by the Shiites but did not intervene when Saddam crushed the rebels. [70] [71]

Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch has argued that the justification of "human rights" for the war in Iraq does not meet appropriate standards for the level of suffering that it causes.[72]

Libyan disarmament

Also included in the list of postwar justifications is Libya's agreement to abandon its WMD programs in December of 2003. Those who argue that this action was directly inspired by the invasion of Iraq point to a phone call Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he had with Libya's leader, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi in April of 2003, in which he quotes Qadaffi as saying "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid." [73] Negotiations between Libya and the United States and Britain on disarmament began almost immediately thereafter. [74] On the other hand, Flynt Leverett (former senior director for Middle Eastern Affairs at the NSC) and Martin S. Indyk (former Clinton administration official) argue that the agreement was instead a result of good-faith negotiations. Libya had in principle agreed to surrender its programs in 1999.

Purported links between the government of Iraq and terrorist organizations


See Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda for more details.

Saddam Hussein's regime had some contacts with terrorist organizations in the past. The Bush Administration mentioned these contacts frequently in the run-up to the war, even suggesting direct ties to al-Qaeda, but American intelligence agencies could not find any evidence of an operational relationship. Some even alleged that Saddam supported the attacks of 9/11, but this view that has not been confirmed by the evidence. Some newspapers in 1998 reported an "alliance" or "pact" between Saddam and al-Qaeda [75]. In January 1999, Newsweek magazine also reported statements by a Saudi intelligence officer that Saddam and al-Qaeda had formed an alliance. But by 2003 most news organizations were extremely skeptical of such claims; certainly no evidence of any "alliance" or "pact" ever emerged in the mainstream press. One January 2003 article in the San Jose Mercury News said the claim "stretches the analysis of U.S. intelligence agencies to, and perhaps beyond, the limit." [76]

After the invasion, in January of 2004, Secretary Powell stated "I have not seen [a] smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist, and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did." But by September 2005 Secretary Powell, when asked if there was any connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11, said "I have never seen a connection. I can't think otherwise, because I've never seen any evidence to suggest there was one."[20/20 Interview (9 September 2005)]. Various independent investigations into the question of an al-Qaeda connection by U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, FBI, and NSA concluded that there was no evidence of cooperation between Saddam and al-Qaeda.

Some unspecified information once perceived as "evidence" for a connection between the two turns out to have been disinformation coming from several sources, most notably an associate of Ahmed Chalabi who was given the code name "Curveball", and from captured al Qaeda leader Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The Chalabi source has been thoroughly discredited, and the al Qaeda source has since recanted his story. Other al Qaeda leaders have claimed that there was no operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, and indeed that Osama bin Laden had forbidden such a relationship with the Iraqi leader, whom he considered an infidel.

Some support for claims of collaboration between al Qaeda and the now deposed Iraqi government have come from weapons smuggler Mohamed Mansour Shahab, who said in an interview in the New Yorker magazine that he had been directed by the Iraqi intelligence community to organize, plan, and carry out up to nine terrorist attacks against American targets in the Middle East, including an attack similar to the one carried out on the USS Cole. [77]. Reporter Guy Dinmore questions his credibility however, writing in the London Financial Times: "it is apparent that the man is deranged. He claims to have killed 422 people, including two of his wives, and says he would drink the blood of his victims. He also has no explanation for why, although he was arrested two years ago, he only revealed his alleged links to al-Qaeda and Baghdad after the September 11 attacks." (22 May 2002 p. 13) Al Qaeda expert Jason Burke wrote after interviewing Shahab, "Shahab is a liar. He may well be a smuggler, and probably a murderer too, but substantial chunks of his story simply are not true."[78].

The only member of the original plot to destroy the World Trade Center to escape US law enforcement officials, the Iraqi Abdul Rahman Yasin, fled to Baghdad shortly after the attacks in 1993. Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only alleged member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large after the investigation into the bombing where he fled to Iraq. After major fighting ceased U.S. forces discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, that allegedly show that the Iraqi government gave Yasin a house and monthly salary. [79]

FBI and CIA investigations in 1995 and 1996 concluded "that the Iraqi government was in no way involved in the attack"; then-U.S. counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has since testified, "the fact that one of the 12 people involved in the attack was Iraqi hardly seems to me as evidence that the Iraqi government was involved in the attack. The attack was Al Qaeda; not Iraq.... [T]he allegation that has been made that the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was done by the Iraqi government I think is absolutely without foundation." (911 Commission Hearing, 24 March 2004)[80]

Abbas al-Janabi, who served for fifteen years as personal assistant to Uday Hussein before defecting to United Kingdom, has often claimed that he knew of collaboration between the former Iraqi government and al Qaeda. Al-Janabi said that he had learned that Iraqi officials had visited Afghanistan and Sudan to strengthen ties with Al-Qaeda and he also claimed he knew of a facility near Baghdad where foreign fighters were trained and instructed by members of the Republican Guard and Mukhabarat. [81]. Salman Pak, a facility matching al-Janabi’s description, was captured by US Marines in Mid April of 2003 [82], but no evidence of al Qaeda presence at the camp has been found. Some claim that the camp was actually a counterterrorism facility built by the British in the mid 1980's but UN weapons inspectors, including Charles Duelfer believed it had been converted from its original purpose and was being used to train militants. [83] Inconsistencies in the stories of the Iraqi defectors have led U.S. officials, journalists, and investigators to conclude that the Salman Pak story was inaccurate. Al-Janabi and other Iraqi defectors who tell this story are associated with the Iraqi National Congress, an organization that has been accused of deliberately supplying false information to the US government in order to build support for regime change ([84]). "The INC’s agenda was to get us into a war," said Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News. "The really damaging stories all came from those guys, not the CIA. They did a really sophisticated job of getting it out there."[85] One senior U.S. official said that they had found "nothing to substantiate" the claim that al-Qaeda trained at Salman Pak.[86]

In April of 2001, the Czech Security Information Service reported a meeting between Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani, an Iraqi Intelligence Service officer operating out of the Iraqi embassy in Prague, and a man they believed to be Mohamed Atta. The Czech report was based on a single eyewitness from Prague who is now generally considered unreliable. Nevertheless, this Prague connection was seen as a crucial link between Iraq and al Qaeda by proponents of collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission examined this evidence, saying that circumstantial evidence appeared to place Atta in Florida at the time, and that "The available evidence does not support the original Czech report of an Atta-Ani meeting." The report concluded, "Based on the evidence available including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting we do not believe that such a meeting occurred." It also says that Czech intelligence indicates that al-Ani "was about 70 miles away from Prague" at the time that the meeting supposedly took place. [87], [88]

The Senate Report concludes that, while representatives of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda had indeed met, an operational relationship was never realized and there was a deep sense of mistrust and dislike of one another. Osama Bin Laden was shown to view Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party as running contrary to his religion, calling it an "apostate regime." A British intelligence report [89] went so far as to say of Bin Laden "His aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq."

The state-run Iraqi local paper Al-Nasiriya published an opinion piece praising Osama bin Laden that Senator Ernest Hollings interpreted as foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Senator Hollings read the opinion piece into the Congressional Record. [90] Nobody has offered any evidence that such "foreknowledge," if it existed at all on the part of the article's author, extended to Saddam's regime. Neither the 9/11 Commission Report nor the Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq found this article worth mention.

In 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, concluded that there was no evidence of a "collaborative operational relationship" between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks. [91] [92] This conclusion was consistent with the conclusions of all agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, according to documents released in 2005. Senator Carl Levin wrote that the documents "are additional compelling evidence that the Intelligence Community did not believe there was a cooperative relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, despite public comments by the highest ranking officials in our government to the contrary."[93]

Other terrorist organizations

Aside from the contentious allegations of Iraq's relationship with al Qaeda, the former government did have relationships with other militant organizations in the Middle East including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is known that some $10–15M total was paid to the families of suicide bombers, presented as compensation for the demolition of their homes in Israeli collective punishment operations. Abu Abbas (associate with the PLO and the Achille Lauro hijacking) was found in Iraq, and had been wanted for quite some time. In August 2002, Abu Nidal (attacks in Italy and elsewhere) died in Baghdad from gunshot wounds while facing treason charges under Saddam's government.

In 1998, Iraq plotted to blow up Radio Free Europe in Prague, for broadcasting opposition communications into Iraq. According to Jabir Salim, the consul and second secretary at the Iraq embassy in Prague, Saddam Hussein had allocated $150,000 to recruit and train individuals who would not be traceable back to Iraq. This plot was aborted in December 1998 when Salim defected in Prague, revealing details of the plot to the CIA, British MI-6 and Czech intelligence.

The now deposed Iraqi regime has also been accused of an assassination plot on former President George Bush. On April 14, 1993, it is charged that Iraq plotted to assassinate former President George Bush while he was visiting Kuwait. The assassins were Ra'ad al-Asadi and Wali al-Ghazali, two Iraqi nationals, who had been supplied with a car bomb. The plot was foiled when the two were captured in Kuwait City. The FBI learned that the two had been recruited by the Iraqi intelligence Service in Basra, Iraq, who also gave them the explosive devices shortly before Bush arrived in Kuwait.

Some documents indicate that the leadership was attempting to distance itself from Islamist militants instead of working with them [94], and that any connection between al Qaeda and Iraq is new. This was in relation to the rising insurgency in Iraq: Saddam was fearful that the foreign fighters might use this as an opportunity for themselves, rather than fight for Saddam to take control again. Many international jihadists have in fact begun operating in Iraq since the U.S. occupation began. (See Iraqi insurgency for further details).

The Bush Administration also has claimed that there are links between Saddam Hussein's government and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose organization Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Monotheism and Holy War) has taken credit for kidnappings and beheadings directed against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Zarqawi is rumored to have been treated in an Iraqi hospital after being wounded in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi had settled in Kurdish northern Iraq (an area not controlled by Saddam Hussein's government) where he joined the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam, which was an enemy of the Ba'athist government. Nevertheless, U.S. officials continued to assert that Zarqawi constitutes an important link between Saddam's government and al Qaeda. A CIA report in early October 2004 "found no clear evidence of Iraq harbouring Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." [95] Also, Zarqawi does not seem to have ever been, as some have asserted, an al Qaeda leader, and only pledged his allegiance to the al Qaeda organization in October 2004.[96] This pledge came two days after his insurgent organization in Iraq was officially declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

On October 19, 2004, the International Institute for Strategic Studies published its annual report stating that the war in Iraq had actually increased the risk of terrorism against westerners in Arab countries[97].

Opinion and legality

See Views on the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Popular opposition to the 2003 Iraq war

Global Protests around the World against the invasion
Global Protests around the World against the invasion

Countries supporting and opposing the invasion

Support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq included 49 nations, a group that was frequently referred to as the "coalition of the willing". These nations provided combat troops, support troops, and logistical support for the invasion. The nations contributing combat forces were, roughly:

Total 300,884 - 98% US & UK

United States (250,000 83%), United Kingdom (45,000 15%), South Korea (3,500 1.1%), Australia (2,000 0.6%), Denmark (200 0.06%), and Poland (184 0.06%). Ten other countries offered small numbers of non-combat forces, mostly either medical teams and specialists in decontamination. In several of these countries a majority of the public was opposed to the war. For example, in Spain polls reported at one time a 90% opposition to the war. In most other countries less than 10% of the populace supported an invasion of Iraq without a specific go-ahead from the UN. [98]. According to a mid-January 2003 telephone poll, approximately one-third of the U.S. population supported a unilateral invasion by the US and its allies, while two-thirds supported war if directly authorized by the U.N.[99][100].

Global protests expressed opposition to the invasion. In many Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, many protesters supported Saddam Hussein, but protesters in the United States and Europe generally did not. On the government level, the war was criticized by Canada, Belgium, Russia, France, The People's Republic of China, Germany, Switzerland, The Vatican, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, the Arab League, the African Union and others. Though many nations opposed the war, no foreign government openly supported Saddam Hussein, and none volunteered any assistance to the Iraqi side.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said the U.S. military could not use Saudi Arabia's soil in any way to attack Iraq. [101] After ten years of U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, cited among reasons by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden for his al-Qaeda attacks on America on September 11, 2001, most of U.S. forces were withdrawn in 2003. [102] According to the New York Times, the invasion secretly received support from Saudi Arabia. [103]

Legality of the invasion

U.S. law

Under the United States Constitution, presidents do not have authority to declare war. This power is granted exclusively to Congress, and there is no provision in the Constitution for its delegation, although under the War Powers Act of 1973, the president can send troops to a country without congress's consent for 60-90 days. As the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, it cannot be superseded except by amendment to itself. On October 3, 2002, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) submitted to the House International Relations committee a proposed declaration which read, "A state of war is declared to exist between the United States and the government of Iraq." It was rejected.[104] Citing several factors, including unresolved issues from the 1991 Gulf War, the Bush administration claimed intrinsic authority to engage Iraq militarily[105], and Congress delegated its war powers to the President[106]; from this point of view, the invasion of Iraq, while a war, may therefore be considered a police action commenced by the executive, like the Korean war.

International law

Resolution 1441, drafted and accepted unanimously the year before the invasion, threatened "serious consequences" to Iraq in case Iraq did not comply with all conditions. Russia, the People's Republic of China, and France made clear in a joint statement that this did not authorize the use of force but a further resolution was needed. This was also the position of the UK and the US at the time the resolution was decided. On the day of the vote the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said that in the event of a "further breach" by Iraq, Resolution 1441 would require that "the matter will return to the Council for discussions."[107]

Until a few days before the war, it was the position of the UK, the main US ally in the war, that a further resolution would be desirable before the UK would go to war.

Some have said that the US and other coalition governments' invasion of Iraq was an unprovoked assault on an independent country which breached international law. Under Article 2, Number 4 of the UN Charter, "All Members shall refrain... from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..." This is known as the "Prohibition of Aggression." For the use of force other than in self defence, it is absolute without the positive sanction of the security council under Article 42. Resolution 1441 was not intended by China, Russia and France to authorise war. The coalition formed around the USA argued that another understanding of the resolution is possible, although Kofi Annan, speaking on behalf of the UN charter, declared: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." [108]

The Bush administration argued that the UN Security Council Resolutions authorizing the 1991 invasion, in addition to Resolution 1441, gave legal authority to use "all necessary means," which is diplomatic code for going to war. This war ended with a cease fire instead of a permanent peace treaty. Their view was that Iraq had violated the terms of the cease-fire by breaching two key conditions and thus made the invasion of Iraq a legal continuation of the earlier war. If a war can be reactivated ten years after the fact, it would imply that any nation that has ever been at war that ended in a cease-fire (such as Korea) could face war for failing to meet the conditions of the cease-fire. Such is the purpose of using a cease-fire agreement in place of a peace treaty; the resumption of war is the penalty for, and thus deterrent of, engaging in the prohibited action(s). For instance, in WWII, the state of war with Germany did not end until 19 October 1951 and with Japan, not until 28 April 1952[109].

Since the majority of the United Nations security council members (both permanent and rotating) did not support the attack, it appears that they viewed the attack as invalid under any resolution still in effect in March, 2003. Both Kofi Annan, current Secretary-General of the United Nations, and former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, as well as several nations, say that the attack violated international law as a war of aggression since it lacked the validity of a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize military force, and was not an act of defence, and so violated the UN charter. However, none have called for the security council to consider sanctions against the United States or the other nations involved, both because of an effort to restore warmer relationships with the US, and because the attempt would be futile since the US has a veto in the Security Council.

The United States and United Kingdom claimed, and continue to claim, that it was a legal action which they were within international law to undertake. Some in the media have called the good faith of the Security Council into question on this matter. [110] [111] One argument is that the United Nations itself, along with the three opponents of the Iraq War on the Security Council, France, Russia, and China, all benefited financially (in some cases, perhaps illegally) from transactions with the Saddam Hussein regime under the Oil for Food program; [112] and that the leaders of these three countries, along with Kofi Annan, fought against a second UN resolution not out of higher principle but in order to keep these contracts. Additionally, the resistance of the Security Council and the UN as a whole to the invasion of Iraq has been attributed to Anti-Americanism and a resentment of the cultural and economic dominance of the USA. In the case of France, it has also been attributed an attempt to court the Arab world and its local Muslim population. [113]

On 28 April 2005, the UK government published the full advice given by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith on 7 March 2003 on the legality of the war. The publication of this document followed the leaking of the summary to the press the day before. In a Labour press conference, Tony Blair responded to a question from journalist Jon Snow asking whether the full report could be published by saying 'we may as well, you've seen most of it already'. In the document, Lord Goldsmith weighs the different arguments on whether military action against Iraq would be legal without a second UN Resolution. Saying that "regime change cannot be the objective of military action," it clearly stated that invasion for the purpose of regime change was illegal. [114]

Downing Street memo

On 1 May 2005, a related UK document known as the Downing Street memo, detailing the minutes of a meeting on 26 July 2002, was apparently leaked to The Times. British officials did not dispute the document's authenticity, and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman has called the document "nothing new." The document corroborates the information in the full advice of Lord Goldsmith: "The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult.," and states furthermore that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." and that "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.." On 5 May, John Conyers and 89 members of congress asked George W. Bush, in a formal letter, to answer some questions about the document, including whether he or anyone in his administration disputes its accuracy. [115] The Bush Administration has stated that they will not answer the questions. Critics of the memos bring up the fact that they cannot be authenticated. [116]

Call for British investigation into legality

On 22 May 2005, the British government declined a request from the families of soldiers killed in Iraq for an investigation into the legality of the war. The families are now seeking a judicial review of the request. [117] [118]

In Britain, Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who was decorated during three tours at the front in Afghanistan and Iraq, was court-martialled for refusing to serve a fourth tour in Iraq:

He has been charged with four counts of "disobeying a lawful command." But Kendall-Smith, a decorated medical officer in the Royal Air Force, says that his study of the recently revealed evidence about the lies, distortions and manipulations used to justify the invasion has convinced him that both the war and the occupation are "manifestly illegal." Thus any order arising from this criminal action is itself an "unlawful command," The Sunday Times reports. In fact, the RAF's own manual of law compels him to refuse such illegal orders, Kendall-Smith insists. [119]

The officer had made clear that he is not a conscientious objector, and would not necessarily refuse a tour of duty of legal engagement, and that his objection was purely legal. He refused to return to active service in Iraq after studying the legal advice of Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, and concluded that it was wrong.

Lt Kendall-Smith's lawyer commented, "He maintains his stance and he will maintain his plea of not guilty, on the basis that the war in Iraq was manifestly illegal. It is a legal test to seek out a ruling on the jurisprudence of the issue: was the war legal or not?" [120]

Separately, but also referenced in the above article, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the former Chief of the Defence Staff, has stated that he did not believe the UK Attorney General's legal advice justifying the war was watertight, and stated that because of this he had demanded unequivocal legal assurance that the war was legal. He stated in interview on May 1 2005, that despite this, he did not consider himself to have full legal cover from prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC), that he had never been told of the March 7 memo by Goldsmith which raised doubts as to the war's legality, and that:

"I think I have done as best as I can do. I have always been troubled by the ICC. Although I was reassured ... about five years ago, I was patted on the head and told, 'Don't worry, on the day it will be fine.' I don't have 100 per cent confidence in that. [...] If my soldiers went to jail and I did, some other people would go with me. I wanted to make sure that we had this anchor which has been signed by the government law officer. It may not stop us from being charged, but, by God, it would make sure other people were brought into the frame as well." transcript

Lord Boyce was asked whether he meant by this, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith; he replied: "Too bloody right."

Calls for International Criminal Court investigation

It is reported in The Guardian, although not on the ICC website as yet, that papers have been filed with the ICC by a pressure group, "Military Families Against the War", asking the court to determine whether any member of the British armed forces died or suffered injuries "pursuing impermissible military objectives connected to regime change rather than the threat to international peace and security in the region from Iraq's (alleged) programme of WMD". Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said he had also referred to the ICC prosecutor the multiple alleged cases of torture and deaths whilst in detention in British-controlled areas. [121] It is not confirmed whether the ICC is obliged or has discretion to accept the case on such a basis.

Opposition view of the invasion

See Popular opposition to the 2003 Iraq war

Those who opposed the war in Iraq did not regard Iraq's violation of UN resolutions to be a valid case for the war, since no single nation has the authority, under the UN Charter, to judge Iraq's compliance to UN resolutions and to enforce them. Furthermore, critics argued that the US was applying double standards of justice, noting that other nations such as Israel are also in breach of UN resolutions and have nuclear weapons; this argument is not a black and white matter, [122], as some claim that Iraq's history of actually using chemical weapons (against Iran and the Kurdish population in Iraq) suggested at the time that Iraq was a far greater threat. Others claim, also, that this contradicts previous U.S. policy, since the US was one of many nations that supplied chemical weapon precursors, even when well aware of what it was being used for.

Although Iraq was known to have pursued an active nuclear weapons development program previously, as well as to have tried to procure materials and equipment for their manufacture, these weapons and material have yet to be discovered. President Bush's reference to Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium in Africa in his 2003 State of the Union address are by now commonly considered as having been based on forged documents (see Yellowcake forgery).


See 2003–2004 occupation of Iraq timeline for the White House statements and 2003 Iraq war timeline for a more detailed account of the invasion.

Prior to invasion, the United States and other coalition forces involved in the 1991 Persian Gulf War had been engaged in a low-level conflict with Iraq, enforcing Iraqi no-fly zones. Iraqi air-defense installations were engaged on a fairly regular basis after repeatedly targeting American and British air patrols. In mid-2002, the U.S. began to change its response strategy, more carefully selecting targets in the southern part of the country in order to disrupt the military command structure in Iraq. A change in enforcement tactics was acknowledged at the time, but it was not made public that this was part of a plan known as Operation Southern Focus.

The tonnage of bombs dropped increased from 0 in March 2002 and 0.3 in April 2002 to between 7 and 14 tons per month in May-August, reaching a pre-war peak of 54.6 tons in September - prior to Congress' 11 October authorisation of the invasion. The September attacks included a 5 September 100-aircraft attack on the main air defence site in western Iraq. According to The New Statesman this was "Located at the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shias, it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected."[123]

Opening attack

On March 20, 2003 at approximately 02:30 UTC or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, at 05:30 local time, explosions were heard in Baghdad; coinciding with Australian Special Air Service Regiment personnel crossing the border into southern Iraq. At 03:15 UTC, or 10:15 pm EST, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that he had ordered the coalition to launch an "attack of opportunity" against targets in Iraq.

Before the invasion, many observers had expected a lengthy campaign of aerial bombing in advance of any ground action, taking as examples the Persian Gulf War or the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In practice, U.S. plans envisioned simultaneous air and ground assaults to decapitate the Iraqi forces as fast as possible (see Shock and Awe), attempting to bypass Iraqi military units and cities in most cases. The assumption was that superior U.S. mobility and coordination would allow the U.S. to attack the heart of the Iraqi command structure and destroy it in a short time, and that this would minimize civilian deaths and damage to infrastructure. It was expected that the elimination of the leadership would lead to the collapse of the army and the government, and that much of the population would support the invaders once the government had been weakened. Occupation of cities and attacks on peripheral military units were viewed as undesirable distractions.

Following Turkey's decision to deny any official use of its territory, the U.S. was forced to abandon a planned simultaneous attack from north and south, so the primary bases for the invasion were in Kuwait and other Persian Gulf nations. One result of this was that one of the divisions intended for the invasion was forced to relocate and was unable to take part in the invasion until well into the war. Many observers felt that the U.S. devoted insufficient troops to the invasion, and that this (combined with the failure to occupy cities) put them at a major disadvantage in achieving security and order throughout the country when local support failed to meet expectations.

The invasion was swift, with the collapse of the Iraq government and the military of Iraq in about three weeks. The oil infrastructure of Iraq was rapidly secured with limited damage in that time. Securing the oil infrastructure was considered important. In the first Persian Gulf War, while retreating from Kuwait, the Iraqi army had set many oil wells on fire, in an attempt to disguise troop movements and to distract Coalition forces--a side effect of these actions were many environmental problems. The British Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade launched an air and amphibious assault on the Al-Faw peninsula during the closing hours of 20 March to secure the oil fields there; the amphibious assault was supported by frigates of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attached to 3 Commando Brigade, attacked the port of Umm Qasr. The British 16 Air Assault Brigade also secured the oilfields in southern Iraq in places like Rumaila.

In keeping with the rapid advance plan, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division moved westward and then northward through the desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and 1 (UK) Armoured Division moved northward through marshland. All forces avoided major cities except when necessary to capture river crossings over the Tigris and Euphrates. The British 7 Armoured Brigade ('The Desert Rats') fought their way into Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, on 6 April, coming under constant attack by regulars and Fedayeen, while the 3rd Parachute Regiment cleared the 'old quarter' of the city that was inaccessible to vehicles. The entering of Basra had only been achieved after two weeks of conflict, which included the biggest tank battle by British forces since World War II when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks on 27 March. The UK's control of the city was, however, limited. Element's of 1 (UK) Armoured Division began to advance north towards U.S. positions around Al Amarah on 9 April. Pre-existing electrical and water shortages continued through the conflict and looting began as Iraqi forces collapsed. While British forces began working with local Iraqi Police to enforce order, humanitarian aid began to arrive from ships landing in the port city of Umm Qasr and trucks entering the country through Kuwait.

After a rapid initial advance, the first major pause occurred in the vicinity of Hillah and Karbala, where U.S. leading elements, hampered by dust storms, met resistance from Iraqi troops and paused for some days for re-supply before continuing toward Baghdad.

The 2nd Battalion of the U.S. 5th Special Forces Group (part of the Green Berets) conducted reconnaissance in the cities of Basra, Karbala and various other locations. In the North 10th SFG had the mission of aiding the Kurdish factions such as the Union of Kurdistan and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. Turkey had officially forbidden any US troops from using their bases, so lead elements of the 10th had to make certain detours; their journey was supposed to take four hours but instead it took ten. However, Turkey did allow the use of its air space and so the rest of the 10th flew in. The mission was to destroy Ansar al-Islam and a Kurdish faction. The target was Sargat and after heavy fighting with both groups the special forces finally took Sargat and pushed the remaining units out of Northern Iraq. After Sargat was taken, Bravo Company along with their Kurdish Allies pushed south towards Tikrit and the surrounding towns of Northern Iraq. During the Battle of the Green Line, Bravo Company with their Kurdish allies pushed back, destroyed, or routed 13th Iraqi Armoured and Infantry Division. Bravo took Tikrit. The 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into H3, an Iraqi Airfield, and secured it for future use. Iraq was the largest deployment of Special Forces since Vietnam.

Fall of Baghdad (April 2003)

Three weeks into the invasion, U.S. forces moved into Baghdad. Initial plans were for armor units to surround the city and a street-to-street battle to commence using Airborne units. However, within days a "Thunder Run" of US tanks was launched to test Iraqi defenses, with about 30 tanks rushing from a staging base to the Baghdad airport. They met heavy resistance, including many suicide attacks, but launched another run two days later into the Palaces of Saddam Hussein, where they established a base. Within hours of the palace seizure, and television coverage of this spreading through Iraq, Iraqi resistance crumbled around the city. Iraqi government officials had either disappeared or had conceded defeat. On April 9, 2003, Baghdad was formally secured by US forces and the power of Saddam Hussein was declared ended. Saddam had vanished, and his whereabouts were unknown. Many Iraqis celebrated the downfall of Saddam by vandalizing the many portraits and statues of him together with other pieces of his personality cult. One widely publicized event was the dramatic toppling of a large statue of Saddam in central Baghdad by a US tank, while a crowd of Iraqis cheered the Marines on.

General Tommy Franks assumed control of Iraq as the supreme commander of occupation forces. Shortly after the sudden collapse of the defense of Baghdad, rumors were circulating in Iraq and elsewhere that there had been a deal struck (a "safqua") wherein the US had bribed key members of the Iraqi military elite and/or the Ba'ath party itself to stand down. In May 2003, General Franks retired, and confirmed in an interview with Defense Week that the U.S. had paid Iraqi military leaders to defect. The extent of the defections and their effect on the war are unclear.

Coalition troops promptly began searching for the key members of Saddam Hussein's government. These individuals were identified by a variety of means, most famously through sets of most-wanted Iraqi playing cards.

Saddam Hussein shortly after his capture
Saddam Hussein shortly after his capture

On 22 July 2003 during a raid by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and men from Task Force 20, Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay, and one of his grandsons were killed.

Saddam Hussein was captured on December 13, 2003 by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121 during Operation Red Dawn.

Other areas

In the north, Kurdish forces opposed to Saddam Hussein had already occupied for years an autonomous area in northern Iraq. With the assistance of U.S. Special Forces and airstrikes, they were able to rout the Iraqi units near them and to occupy oil-rich Kirkuk on 10 April.

U.S. special forces had also been involved in the extreme west of Iraq, attempting to occupy key roads to Syria and airbases. In one case two armored platoons were used to convince Iraqi leadership that an entire armored battalion was entrenched in the west of Iraq.

On 15 April, U.S. forces mostly took control of Tikrit, the last major outpost in central Iraq, with an attack led by the Marines' Task Force Tripoli (comprised of units from 1st, 2nd & 3rd LAR Battalions along with a company of infantry and the 1st Marine Division jump Headquarters). About a week later the Marines were relieved in place by the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Summary of the invasion

Coalition forces managed to topple the government and capture the key cities of a large nation in only 28 days, taking minimal losses while also trying to avoid large civilian deaths and even high numbers of dead Iraqi military forces. The invasion was, in a military context, a complete success, and did not require the huge army built up for the 1991 Gulf War, which numbered half a million Allied troops. This did prove short-sighted, however, due to requirement for a much larger force to combat the irregular Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the war.

The Saddam-built army had no weapons that could stand up to Coalition forces, and managed only to stage a few ambushes that gained a great deal of media attention but in reality did nothing to slow the Coalition advance. The Iraqi T-72 tanks, the heaviest armored vehicles in the Iraqi Army, were both outdated and ill-maintained, and when they did stand up to Coalition forces were destroyed quickly, thanks in part due to the Coalition's control of the air. The U.S. Air Force and British Royal Air Force operated with impunity throughout the country, pinpointing heavily defended enemy targets and destroying them before ground troops arrived.

The main battle tanks (MBT) of the Coalition forces, the U.S. M1 Abrams and British Challenger 2, proved their worth in the rapid advance across the country. Even with the large number of RPG attacks by irregular Iraqi forces, few Coalition tanks were lost and no tank crewmen was killed by hostile fire. All three British tank crew fatalities were a result of friendly fire. The only tank loss sustained by the British Army was a Challenger 2 of the Queen's Royal Lancers that was hit by another Challenger 2, killing two crewmen.

The Iraqi Army suffered from poor morale, even amongst the supposedly elite Republican Guard, and entire units simply melted away into the crowds upon the approach of Coalition troops. Other Iraqi Army officers were bribed by the CIA or coerced into surrendering to coalition forces. Worse, the Iraqi Army had incompetent leadership - reports state that Qusay Hussein, charged with the defense of Baghdad, dramatically shifted the positions of the two main divisions protecting Baghdad several times in the days before the arrival of U.S. forces, and as a result the units within were both confused and further demoralized when the U.S. Army attacked. By no means did the Coalition invasion force see the entire Iraqi military thrown against it, and it is assumed that most units disintegrated to either join the growing Iraqi insurgency or return to their homes.

Security, looting and war damage

Looting took place in the days following. It was reported that the National Museum of Iraq was among the looted sites. The assertion that US forces did not guard the museum because they were guarding the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Interior is apparently true. According to U.S. officials the "reality of the situation on the ground" was that hospitals, water plants, and ministries with vital intelligence needed security more than other sites. There were only enough US troops on the ground to guard a certain number of the many sites that ideally needed protection, and so, apparently, some "hard choices" were made. Also, it was reported that many trucks of purported Iraqi Gold and $1.6 billion of bricks of US cash were seized by US forces.

U.S. troops topple a giant statue of Saddam in Baghdad, following the capture of the city in April.
U.S. troops topple a giant statue of Saddam in Baghdad, following the capture of the city in April.

The FBI was soon called into Iraq to track down the stolen items. It was found that the initial claims of looting of substantial portions of the collection were heavily exaggerated. Initial reports claimed a near-total looting of the museum, estimated at upwards of 170,000 pieces. The most recent estimate places the number of looted pieces at around 15,000. Over 5,000 looted items have since been recovered. [124]

There has been speculation that some objects still missing were not taken by looters after the war, but were taken by Saddam Hussein or his entourage before or during the fighting. There have also been reports that early looters had keys to vaults that held rarer pieces, and some have speculated as to the pre-meditated systematic removal of key artifacts.

The National Museum of Iraq was only one of many museums and sites of cultural significance that were affected by the war. Many in the arts and antiquities communities briefed policy makers in advance of the need to secure Iraqi museums. Despite the looting being lighter than initially feared, the cultural loss of items from ancient Sumeria is significant.

More serious for the post-war state of Iraq was the looting of hundreds of thousands of tons of heavy ordinance: artillery shells, aircraft bombs, mortars; all of which were then used to attack US forces, Iraqi officials, and civilians by the insurgents and terrorists. After invading to prevent WMD’s, the Iraqi nuclear facilities weren’t even a priority- the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, with about 100 tons of uranium, was allowed to be looted. Video showed locals crossing through the fence as US troops looked on passively. [125]

Zainab Bahrani, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, reports that a helicopter landing pad was constructed in the heart of the ancient city of Babylon, and "removed layers of archeological earth from the site. The daily flights of the helicopters rattle the ancient walls and the winds created by their rotors blast sand against the fragile bricks. When my colleague at the site, Maryam Moussa, and I asked military personnel in charge that the helipad be shut down, the response was that it had to remain open for security reasons, for the safety of the troops." [126]

Bahrani also reports that this summer "the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both sixth century BC, collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters."

Electrical power is scarce in post-war Iraq, Bahrani reports, and some fragile artifacts, including the Ottoman Archive, will not survive the loss of refrigeration.

"End of major combat operations" (May 2003)

Main article: Mission Accomplished
The USS Abraham Lincoln returning to port carrying its Mission Accomplished banner
The USS Abraham Lincoln returning to port carrying its Mission Accomplished banner
President George W. Bush on the Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit after landing on the aircraft carrier in a military jet.
President George W. Bush on the Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit after landing on the aircraft carrier in a military jet.

On 1 May 2003 George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq war. Bush's landing was criticized by opponents as an overly theatrical and expensive stunt. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished." The banner, made by White House staff[127]) and hung by the U.S. Navy, was criticized as premature - especially later as the guerrilla war dragged on. The White House subsequently released a statement alleging that the sign and Bush's visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq and disputing the claim of theatrics. The speech itself noted: "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous." ([128])

"Major combat" concluding did not mean that peace had returned to Iraq. Iraq was subsequently marked by violent conflict between U.S.-led occupation of Iraq soldiers and forces described by the occupiers as insurgents. Some critics of the invasion (such as former CIA analyst Bill Christison (writing in Counterpunch)) argue that there are parallels between the current situation in Iraq and the Vietnam War ([129], or film-maker George Lucas [130]). Many supporters of the invasion disagree, for example U.S. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran, who said in a speech given to the U.S. Senate on April 7, 2004: "I know we do not face another Vietnam." [131]

The ongoing resistance in Iraq was concentrated in, but not limited to, an area referred to by Western media and the occupying forces as the Sunni triangle and Baghdad [132]. Critics point out that the regions where violence is most common are also the most populated regions. This resistance may be described as guerrilla warfare. The tactics in use were to include mortars, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, small arms fire, and RPGs, as well as sabotage against the oil infrastructure. There are also accusations, questioned by some, about attacks toward the power and water infrastructure.

There is evidence that some of the resistance was organized, perhaps by the fedayeen and other Saddam Hussein or Ba'ath loyalists, religious radicals, Iraqis angered by the occupation, and foreign fighters. [133] The insurgents are generally known to the Coalition forces as Ali Baba, after a character in the Arabian Nights .

After the war, information began to emerge about several failed Iraqi peace initiatives, including offers as extensive as allowing 5,000 FBI agents in to search the country for weapons of mass destruction, support for the US-backed Roadmap For Peace, and the abdication of Saddam Hussein to be replaced under UN elections.

On May 24, 2005 the International Institute for Strategic Studies stated that Washington's policies of promoting democracy in Iraq and elsewhere looked "increasingly effective".

In June of 2005 a new service medal, known as the Iraq Campaign Medal, was authorized by the United States Department of Defense for service performed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The decoration replaced the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, which had previously been issued by Iraq service. This gave indication that the 2003 invasion of Iraq is seen as a separate conflict from the war on terrorism as a whole.


See Casualties in the conflict in Iraq for details.

Summary of casualties of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (edit)

Possible estimates on the total number of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely. All estimates below are as of October 20, 2005, and include both the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the following Post-invasion Iraq, 2003-2005.

Iraqis Counts of civilian deaths specifically documented range from 26,797 to 30,1631. A study in the Lancet estimated 100,000 excess deaths2 from all causes as of October, 2004. [134], [135]
U.S. armed forces 2,056 combat deaths. 15,487 combat wounded (7,250 evacuated) + unknown non-combat injuries [136], [137]
Armed forces of other coalition countries 199 (97 British, 27 Italian, 18 Ukrainian, 57 other) [138]
Non-Iraqi civilians Unknown, but at least 278 contractors, 58 journalists, 20 media support workers, and 150 aid workers. [139], [140], etc
1 These only refer to deaths reported by two or more news organizations, and include "all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation."
2 The study's estimate of total deaths ranges from 8,000 to 194,000 at a 95% confidence interval This estimate was made in October of 2004. The results have been disputed; see Lancet study for details.

Related propaganda and phrases

This campaign featured a variety of new terminology, much of it initially coined by the U.S. government or military; many of the phrases carried an implicit bias. The name "Operation Iraqi Freedom," for example, expresses one viewpoint of the purpose of the invasion, and is almost never used outside the United States. Also notable was the usage "death squads" to refer to fedayeen paramilitary forces. Members of the Saddam Hussein government were called by disparaging nicknames - e.g., "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid), "Baghdad Bob" or "Comical Ali" (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf), and "Mrs. Anthrax" or "Chemical Sally" (Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash). Saddam Hussein was systematically referred to as "Saddam," which some Westerners mistakenly believed to be disparaging. (Although there is no consensus about how to refer to him in English, "Saddam" is acceptable usage, and is how people in Iraq and the Middle East generally refer to him. [141])

Terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:

  • "Axis of Evil," originally used by President Bush during a State of the Union address on January 29, 2002 to describe the countries of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. [142]
  • "Coalition of the willing," a term that originated in the Clinton era (eg: interview, President Clinton, ABC, June 8, 1994), and used by the Bush Administration to describe the countries contributing troops in the invasion, of which the U.S. and U.K. were the primary members.
  • "Decapitating the regime," a euphemism for either overthrowing the government or killing Saddam Hussein.
  • "Embedding," United States practice of assigning civilian journalists to U.S. military units.
  • "Minder," an Iraqi government official assigned to watch over a foreign correspondent
  • "Old Europe," Rumsfeld's term used to describe the divisions between European governments: "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."
  • "Regime change," a euphemism for overthrowing a government.
  • "Shock and Awe," the strategy of reducing an enemy's will to fight through displays of overwhelming force.

Many slogans and terms coined came to be used by President Bush's political opponents, or those opposed to the war. For example, in April of 2003 John Kerry, the Democratic candidate in the presidential election, said at a campaign rally: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." [143]

Media coverage

Main article: 2003 invasion of Iraq media coverage

Media coverage of this war was different in certain ways from that of the Persian Gulf War. Victoria Clarke, the Assistant Defense Secretary (formerly with Hill and Knowlton, the PR firm infamous for promoting the false baby-incubator story during the first Persian Gulf War)[144] devised the Pentagon's policy of "embedding" reporters with military units. Viewers in the United States were able to watch U.S. tanks rolling into Baghdad live on television, with a split screen image of the Iraqi Minister of Information claiming that U.S. forces were not in the city. Many foreign observers of the media and especially the television coverage in the USA felt that it was excessively partisan and in some cases "gung-ho."

Critics of the war, especially those on the political left argued that media organizations should be neutral, and not be "expected" to support the military of their country. In Europe in particular such critics have long argued that the American press and news media are unquestioningly pro-Bush. The fact that American news programs accepted the administration's war terminology like "Operation Iraqi Freedom" uncritically, and that many American reporters wore US flags in their lapels, were seen as inappropriate behavior.

European coverage was more critical of the invasion, and tended to put a greater emphasis on coalition setbacks and losses and civilian deaths than the US media [145] [146]. Supporters of the war, especially American conservatives often characterized European media coverage as anti-American and "left-wing." During an interview with UK news company ITN, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked if he would like to apologise for taking his country into the war. Blair responded saying "I don't believe I did anything wrong".

Arab media coverage of the conflict was criticized as biased towards the old Iraqi regime. For example, the Chicago Tribune on April 10, 2003 reported that the defeat sent a shockwave of incredulity across the Middle East, and quoted a Damascus housewife who believed that jubilant Iraqis were being paid to act that way in front of the cameras [147].

Another difference was the wide and independent coverage on the World Wide Web, demonstrating that for web-surfers in rich countries and the elites in poorer countries, the Internet had become mature as a medium, giving about half a billion people access to different versions of events.

First-hand reports by Iraqis, however, were spotty during the war itself, since internet penetration in Iraq was already very weak (with an estimate of 12,000 users in Iraq in 2002). The deliberate destruction of Iraqi telecommunication facilities by US forces made Internet communication even more difficult. The web did offer some first-hand reports from bloggers such as Salam Pax, and additional information was available on soldier blogs.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, which was formed in 1996, gained worldwide attention for its coverage of the war. Their broadcasts were popular in much of the Arab world, but also to some degree in Western nations, with major American networks such as CNN and MSNBC re-broadcasting some of their coverage. Al-Jazeera was well-known for their graphic footage of civilian deaths, which American news media branded as overly sensationalistic. The English website of Al-Jazeera was brought down during the middle of the Iraq war by Internet vandals.

In August of 2004, Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices closed, and temporarily banned the station from broadcasting in Iraq. A couple of weeks later, the ban was made indefinite, and Iraqi security officers raided the station, sealing it off. Al-Jazeera called the raid "reminiscent of the way certain other regimes have behaved."[148]

Military leaders shut off the BBC connection to HMS Ark Royal after grumbling among sailors that it was biased in favor of Iraqi reports. [149] By contrast, a study by Justin Lewis at Cardiff University found that the BBC reports had been somewhat sanitized, and did not question pro-war assumptions.

Belgian journalist Alain Hertoghe published a book accusing the French press in particular and the European press in general of not being objective in its coverage of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Hertoghe's book, La Guerre à Outrances (The War of Outrages), criticizes French press coverage of the war as being pessimistic of the U.S.-led coalition's chance of success and continually focusing on challenges faced during the invasion. Hertoghe also claims in his book that the European media became so wrapped up in its own particular biases against the United States that they fed disinformation to their readers and viewers and misled them as to the unfolding events. His selection of press articles to illustrate his point has been criticised as somewhat selective. Since being published, Hertoghe has been fired from his position at French newspaper La Croix. It was claimed that only one major French newspaper had published a review of his book.

International initiatives [150] have protested against U.S. media for downplaying and misinterpreting protests as anti-Americanism, and have accused them of foul language. There was a personal, insulting tone to some of the pro-war commentary in the U.S. and Britain; examples include commentator Christopher Hitchens calling Jacques Chirac "A balding Joan of Arc in drag" [151], the New York Post referring to France, Germany and Russia as the "Axis of weasels" [152], and New York Times columnist William Safire stating that "Chirac and his poodle Putin have severely damaged the United Nations" [153].

Questions have also been raised about U.S. media coverage, given that in the U.S. a pre-war Washington Post poll showed that 69% of the population thought it "likely" or "very likely" that Iraq was involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks, although no evidence of an Iraqi connection to the attack has ever been found. [154]

Journalist Peter Arnett was fired by MSNBC and National Geographic after he declared in an interview with the Iraqi information ministry that he believed the U.S. strategy of "shock and awe" had failed. He also went on to tell Iraqi State TV that he had told "Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government, and the willingness to fight for their country," and that reports from Baghdad about civilian deaths had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration's strategy. The interview was given 10 days before the fall of Baghdad.

On 2 April 2003, in a speech given in New York City, British Home Secretary David Blunkett commented on what he believed to be sympathetic and corrupt reporting of Iraq by Arab news sources. He told the audience that "It's hard to get the true facts if the reporters of Al Jazeera are actually linked into, and are only there because they are provided with facilities and support from, the régime." [155] Ironically, his speech came only hours before Al Jazeera was ejected from Baghdad by the Iraqi government.

U.S. media coverage of other wars has included photographs of the flag-draped coffins of American military personnel killed in action. During the invasion and occupation of Iraq, however, the Bush administration prohibited release of such photographs, and, according to Senator Patrick Leahy, scheduled the return of wounded soldiers for after midnight so that the press would not see them. [156] A number of Dover photographs were eventually released in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by blogger Russ Kick. The practice of transporting wounded soldiers to the US at night was documented by both the Drudge Report and Salon.com. [157] This ban was instituted in 2000 by the Clinton administration, and mirrors a similar ban put in place during the Gulf War [158], though it appears not to have been enforced as tightly during previous military operations.

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